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Republicans face off in Miller County primary

Republicans face off in Miller County primary

July 12th, 2018 by Allen Fennewald in Local News

Republican candidates will dominate this year's August and November elections in Miller County — of the three countywide positions up for a vote, not a single Democrat appears on the ballot.

Two Republicans are running for Miller County prosecuting attorney, four for collector of revenue and three for circuit clerk.

Prosecuting attorney

Incumbent Benjamin Winfrey said he wants to remain Miller County's prosecutor to see important criminal cases through to a verdict.

Winfrey was born and raised in the county on his family's farm near Brumley. He graduated from Iberia High School in 1996 and earned a degree in political science and history from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. After graduation, he was employed by law firm Bryan Cave, but felt the desire to go into public service. He later became an assistant prosecuting attorney for Jackson County, working on violent crimes and cold cases for about five years.

Winfrey said he eventually felt the desire to work in his home county and successfully ran for Miller County prosecuting attorney in 2014.

He said his hometown community rallied around him after he was accidentally shot and paralyzed at age 14.

"One of the reasons why I'm a prosecutor today instead of going into private practice is because I feel as though I owe a debt to my community," he said.

Narcotics violations make up the bulk of the caseload Winfrey would like to continue addressing, as well as a few murder cases. He said having an attorney who is already familiar with the cases gives the prosecution its best chance of obtaining guilty verdicts. He also said the family members of victims already know and trust him and he would like to carry the cases to fruition on their behalf.

Candidate Robert Seek wants his old job back after serving as the county's prosecuting attorney previously.

Seek grew up in Tipton and graduated from Tipton High School in 1970. He graduated from Central Missouri State University in 1974 and the University of Missouri law program in 1977. Later that year, he became the first assistant prosecuting attorney of Miller County.

He was elected Miller County prosecutor in 1982 and served until 1990 and was involved in the first undercover drug operations in the county. He ran again in 1994 and retook the position until 2006, when he unsuccessfully ran for circuit judge. He has since worked in private practice and represented juvenile officers in the 26th Circuit.

The former Miller County prosecuting attorney said he was encouraged to run for his former position by respected individuals before he decided to throw his hat into the election ring. Seek said he was excited to again represent the public and focus on criminal law. He said his experience as both a defense attorney and prosecutor will allow him to fairly try cases.

Seek said he is a hard worker who would be in the prosecutor's office bright and early.

"I take my granddaughter to school in the morning, and I get to my law office by 8 a.m.," he said.

If elected, Seek intends to prioritize prosecuting drug dealers in an effort to decrease the presence of narcotics in Miller County. He said he has experience trying murder cases and is confident he will be able to handle the cases currently facing the county's prosecuting attorney.

Back when Seek was prosecuting attorney, it was a part-time position. The position has since become full time, with a salary of more than $130,000.

Collector of revenue

Incumbent William Harvey said his 10 years of experience in the position make him the ideal candidate out of the pool of four.

Harvey grew up in Eldon, graduated from Eldon High School and earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Missouri State University in Springfield. He spent 25 years as a commercial banker but decided he wanted to work more with the public, so he successfully ran for county collector 10 years ago.

"My favorite part of the job is mostly dealing with the public and being able to help them in some way," he said. "It's not pleasant paying taxes, but we try to make it as pleasant as possible; and when there's an issue, our bell starts ringing and we work hard to get it fixed."

Harvey said the position's greatest challenges involve keeping up with ever changing regulations and requirements.

"It's like trying to catch up with a moving target all the time," he said.

Harvey said the job would be even more difficult for an inexperienced collector because it requires accounting experience and knowledge of developing tax laws.

Candidate Tina Kasper has built her career on bookkeeping and accounting, amassing 32 years of experience. The High Ridge native graduated from Cedar Hill's Northwest High School in 1983 and earned her associate's degree from Kennedy-Western University. She currently works as an accountant at Boorom Bookkeeping in Waynesville.

"Combined with office management, which I've done as well as my bookkeeping, I could definitely work with the numbers," she said.

Kasper said she is good at learning how to use new software and is ready to learn about new technologies to keep the office running smoothly.

Kasper said she decided to run for the position because the job would allow her to prepare for retirement and offers good health benefits.

"When I realized this job was open, I thought, 'I'm a perfect fit for the job,'" she said. "I can do the job, and I can do it well, as well as it being something that will help my family out."

Candidate Debra June Nichols is running for collector after retiring April 30 as an associate clerk for the Miller County Circuit Court.

"I've been serving the people of Miller County for about 25 years," she said. "I want to continue to serve the people of Miller County, so I'm running for county office."

Nichols was raised in Iberia and graduated from Iberia High School before she was hired by the Miller County circuit clerk in 1994. She eventually retired as associate clerk to try something new in her career while still serving the people of Miller County.

She was attracted to the collector position because she feels qualified for the role. She said the clerk's office required the care of a $250,000 bank account, intense budgeting and working with the public.

"I'm a very honest, hardworking person," Nichols said. "If elected, I promise to provide that same work ethic as collector. I plan on always being available."

Former Miller County Sheriff Gaylord McDaniel rounds out the list of collector candidates.

He was born in Lebanon and raised on a Miller County cattle farm and graduated from Iberia High School in 1967.

McDaniel owned and operated a construction material supply business for many years. He took a reprieve from the business to serve as sheriff for four years during the 1980s with no prior law enforcement experience.

"I had some property that was stolen, and I didn't like the way it was handled, so I ran for sheriff," McDaniel said.

McDaniel said law enforcement was at times an intense experience, but there also were more mundane tasks to perform — like budgeting, supervising employees and serving legal papers. He said these experiences, coupled with his time running his own store and farm, would aid him as collector. McDaniel said he retired from the construction material supply business around 1994 but still farms.

McDaniel said he decided to run for collector to assure bills are distributed on time and the fire department is properly funded.

"I want the county to run smooth and see everything work perfect," he said.

Circuit court clerk

Republicans Jill Humphrey, Sheila Curtman and Chuck Drace are running for clerk of the Miller County Circuit Court.